Programme Description - General

European princely courts

European princely courts were a major source for artistic commissions. Art historians have, therefore, long been interested in the history of patronage, i.e. in the history of the relationship between artists and their patrons, either princes of the church or princes of the blood. More recently, scholars started to concentrate on female patrons and on their specific preferences in the sponsorship of the arts. Aristocratic strata of society followed cosmopolitan patterns of fashion and behavior. Princes were kept informed by their spies and by their diplomatic staff about current fashions and about the etiquette observed at the courts of fellow aristocrats, thereby enabling them to imitate these fashions or to develop them further. The aim was, of course, to be seen as the most wealthy, most well educated and most discerning man or woman of good taste, able to attract the foremost artists as well as able to finance the most ambitious projects.

Court culture

Court culture is, however, much more than the patronage of fine arts. A court needed to be run on a day-to-day basis. A large number of staff had to be supervised, fed, lodged and kept under control. Bureaucracy had to be invented and developed to enable senior staff to keep track of petitions, diplomatic relationships, alliances and treaties, marriage negotiations and of the movement of household goods from one part of the court to the next. Hence, this summer school will look at a range of aspects of European princely courts and explore the connections between their political, artistic, social and cultural history. The course concentrates on the early modern period, c.1400 to 1700, and on the courts of Western and Central Europe.


This course aims to introduce students to an international and interdisciplinary study of history, art history, and cultural history. By examining court life and culture from diverse points of view, students will become acquainted with a range of aspects of the daily life of princes, servants and artists and better understand the background of the works of art studied in more conventional art history classes. Guided tours to the museums and sites in Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna complement the Lectures in class.

Student projects to be delivered as part of the final grade will initiate students to useful research methods. Since this is a seminar, there are no exams in the usual sense; however, each student will have to carry out a series of tasks, compose a written paper and a viva presentation to get credit for the course. Participation and regular attendance are crucial for the success of the seminar. Students are encouraged to make as much as possible of their time in Bavaria by visiting additional museums, churches and palaces to gain an overview of the principal methodologies of art history in the classroom.